Of all the possible ways the Monkees could have responded to the death of the group’s most popular member (and biggest sex symbol), staging a nationwide reunion tour mere months afterward would not have seemed the most obvious. Yet that’s exactly what the erstwhile ’60s TV institution did after the death of Davy Jones from a heart attack last year.
In fact, it was at a private family and friends memorial for Jones that the remaining Monkees — Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork and Michael Nesmith — resumed long-tabled discussions about working together again.
“Actually we were all thinking of touring almost six months before Davy passed,” recalled Dolenz. “There had been conversations and emails exchanged between us all during that time. So in a way it was like, ‘What do we do now?'”
Ironically, rather than a last-gasp memorial jaunt, the tour ended up marking the group’s first full-scale outing in years with singer-songwriter Nesmith, who was a frequent absentee from the group’s later tours and projects.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be the ‘Davy Jones rock and roll memorial tour,'” Dolenz said. “The original idea leaned towards us doing most of the ‘Headquarters’ album material combined with the greatest hits. It would, however, be a wonderful trip and homage to Davy, including projected videos with him singing lead. Once we decided on that the immediate problem was how we were going to honor Davy.
“The biggest problem was (the Jones-performed) ‘Daydream Believer.’ It’s a great song and one of our biggest hits, which we definitely had to include in the show. Frankly, none of us wanted to sing it. I think it was Mike who said the song belongs to the fans so let’s have one of them sing it, which I helped one of them do at each show.”
Though they eventually became something of a punchline due to their ersatz origins, the Monkees have proven an oddly resilient commerial power, with songs reappearing regularly in films and TV, and the group just notched a gold record for a 2003 best-of release. As Dolenz noted, “Perhaps the one thing people don’t remember about our initial recordings is that we had original songs by Neil Diamond, Carole King, and Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart who were writing for us.”
Dolenz has been busy recording solo work on UMG-distribbed imprint Robo Records, and his bandmates have individual projects of their own. (Dolenz’s newest record, “Remember,” includes a cover of the Beatles’ “Good Morning,” for which Dolenz was present at the initial recording. “I was dressed like a cross between Ronald McDonald and Charles Manson,” he recalled. The Beatles “all had silly grins when they looked at me, as if they were thinking, ‘is this kid trick or treating?’ or ‘did this guy win some sort of contest?'”)
As for future Monkees projects, however, Dolenz defers to Nesmith. “I think he’s going to do some solo dates to play his own music. Peter and I would like to record with Mike again but we presently have no plans. We recorded all the shows, so there might be a live album coming out. I don’t think getting a deal would be a problem. We just have to agree on new music that we’d all want to record.”